Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Poe and Friends

If you know me, you know I enrolled in graduate school about a year ago.  The first class was fabulous - I learned how to do the research for my historical novels, which is exactly what I needed.  As an added bonus, I actually did a lot of research and rewrote the first chapter of one of my novels to make it historically accurate and just plain better. 

My summer creative writing class was cancelled, and I decided not to take a fall class because of some health issues and the general state of chaos of my life.   

Just this morning, I registered for a 19th century American literature class that's intended for undergraduate seniors.  They created a graduate section of the class just for me.  The deal is that I have to do more work than the undergraduates.  The cool part is I have a lot of say in what that extra work will be. 

The super awesome thing I found out this morning is it's not just a 19th century American literature class (Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Dickinson, and other authors I absolutely adore and haven't read in quite a while).  It's specifically a class on Poe.  16 weeks of Poe and friends.

I love Poe.  One of my favorite childhood movies was The Pit and the Pendulum (yeah, I realize that's a little odd).  My favorite genre to write in besides the impossibly challenging genre of historical fiction is dark comedy.  While I realize Poe maybe wasn't going for comedy, for me it always will be. 

Now that I know the class centers around Poe, I'm even more excited about it.  I think I will take the opportunity to rewrite one of my dark comedies while I'm in Poe mode.  The cool thing is I probably can use my rewrite as my final project for the class. 

The recurrent theme that I keep finding in my work is the complex relationship between hopelessness and mental illness. There's a lot of that in the literature of this time period - like "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892), which echoes Poe's "Ligeia" (1838).  I'm curious to see how authors in this time period write about mental breakdowns of men compared to women. 

Today I'm reading Washington Irving's The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon (1819-1820).  Apparently Irving was the first American author to earn a living entirely from writing.  He is considered an inventor of the short story genre.  Apparently he was a hell of a salesman and a master of self-promotion because what I'm reading so far is not that great.  "Rip Van Winkle" is amazing, but the other "stories" I've read so far are just reflections, like the sort of thing we write here on our blogs.  I can't believe he got paid for them. 

I'm going to trudge through as many of Irving's reflections as I can.  And then I'm going to jump into Last of the Mohicans.  I've seen the movie but haven't read the entire book.  I remember the little sister going a little bit nuts toward the end of the movie.  I'm very interested to see how Cooper handled that in the text or if it's there at all. 

Happy Thanksgiving.  I'm going to spend my week reading - and hopefully will do a little bit of writing too before I pop in my The Pit and the Pendulum DVD.


  1. Geek Alert! I would love that class. And I'll always remember that Yellow Wallpaper story. Couldn't have told you who wrote it, but I remember reading it in college. I think I still have my textbook with the collection of American short stories in it. So many classics. Enjoy the class! And Happy Thanksgiving!!

    1. Geek alert in a good way, right? :)

  2. I love much of Poe's work, but my knowledge of Pre-20th Century American literature is really spotty at best. A smattering of Thoreau, a dabble of Emerson, a passing awareness of Mellville, and Mark Twain, mainly...

    And most lives worth living are those that surf along, propelled by, but not engulfed in, the ebb and flow of underlying chaos. :)

    But then, I'm happy if I get enough down time to read a chapter of a book...

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  3. Oh, I love Poe. I haven't read any of his work in so many years. This post made me want to go back and read some. Sounds like an excellent class.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. I hope that all is well. I know only too well about health issues getting in the way of learning or even reading. I hope that the chaos that you are dealing with calms down.
    It has been a long long time since I read real poetry and literature. I am glad that you are doing post graduation. I waited too long and now that I am in my sixties it is getting harder to even retain. I pray all the time that my reading capacity not be taken away. So enjoy reading and learning while you are young.

  5. Hey Tonja! Sorry I'm late to the post, but I kept it so I could read it when I had time. That's great the class centers so much on Poe and that you get to provide input. I've never read Last of the Mohicans either, but thought the movie was brilliant.
    Happy reading this weekend!

  6. That is awesome about the class! Sounds like it will be a very cool journey. Hope your Thanksgiving and reading week has been wonderful! :-)

  7. I don't think I've ever read Poe. There are a lot of authors I really ought to read! How cool to have the class tailored around you. Enjoy!

  8. Oh. My. GOTH!!!!! I am SOOOOOOOOOO freaking jealous of you!!!!!!!!!! I ADORE POE! Cask of Amontillado is one of my all-time fave stories EVER (talk about dark comedy - the way Montresor goads Fortunato to his doom gives me the goth chuckles like nobody's business. I've been to Poe's last known domicile, in the Fordham section of the Bronx. Girl, it is *tiny* and you really get a sense of how very poor he and Virginia were (the bed in which she died is one of the few remaining pieces of furniture original to the cottage). (Possibly the only one?) I'll definitely be following along to learn how things go for you in the course.

    And thanks for the tip about The Yellow Wallpaper - will check it out!